Recent Scout changes

Center for Research Libraries now appears as a separate location in the Location facet of EDS. If you are just interested in results from the Center for Research Libraries, you can either check the Center for Research Libraries checkbox in the Location facet, or you can add AND LB cen* to your query and then check the Catalog Only limiter. Conversely, if you want to exclude Center for Research Libraries results from your query, you can add NOT LB cen* to your query in conjunction with the Catalog Only limiter.

One improvement we’ve been working on recently has been to get series metadata for catalog records searchable when a title search is conducted in Scout. Though EBSCO has made a number of changes to catalog searching in Scout in order to provide this functionality, Mary Alexander has identified series MARC fields and subfields that should be searched when a title search is conducted but that currently aren’t. We will continue to work with EBSCO on improving this functionality in Scout. Thank you to Barb Dahlbach for initially bringing the issue with searching series metadata in Scout to our attention.

Finally, HathiTrust links now display “Check for access options” links when no full text access is available in HathiTrust. This is just a link to Full Text Finder’s link resolver. When full text is not found, users will see links to the catalog and to the interlibrary loan form. Thank you to Vin Scalfani and Kevin Walker for bringing this issue to our attention.

The 10 Usability Heuristics

Hi folks – when you use our website, and navigate through its structure, the below list of Jakob Nielsen’s 10 essential characteristics of a website are what we are trying to represent and replicate on the university library’s website, and  – to the extent that we can – replicated in all of our web properties. They absolutely are relevant and essential rules for building a great website.

Do the 10 Usability Heuristics Still Hold Up Over Two Decades Later?

Database names in Scout/EDS

All EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) results should now display the database they originated from.

At the end of 2013, a number of databases (Academic Search products notable among them) were merged into the central EDS index. When a result in EDS originated from this central index, the database name would not display in that result’s metadata.

EBSCO’s stated reason for doing this was to improve performance and simplify de-duplication. This change didn’t prove to be popular, though, and in response to customer feedback, EBSCO has found a way to display all database names without compromising performance.

Occasionally, the metadata that will now display in the Database or Content Provider field may refer to a potentially unfamiliar resource — specifically, the Complementary Index, Supplementary Index or eBook Index. These indices are not accessible outside of EDS / Scout. EBSCO has a support article explaining what each of these indices includes. (Note: You will not see the Academic Search Index or Business Source Index listed in that link, since we pay for Academic Search Premier and Business Source Complete.)

If you have questions about this change, please don’t hesitate to comment below or to email me directly. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll pass the question along to EBSCO support.

Research help in website search results (OneSearch)

OneSearch Refresher

OneSearch is the search interface on the library website.  The idea behind OneSearch is to provide a jumping off point to the various library resources available on a topic.


You can search anywhere on the library website and see results broken down into content type — articles, books, et cetera.  Results from webpages on the library web site are also included in the Libraries’ Website section.  For a detailed look at OneSearch, click here.

What we’re adding to the OneSearch results

Web Technologies and Development has been working on adding a Research Help section to our OneSearch results that will display subject specialists based on the user’s query. These result ‘Cards’ are similar to result cards you might see in Google search results when you search for common items such as a thing or a location. Specifically, these new ‘research specialist cards’ use call number range mapping to associate keywords (pulled from the query) with subjects, and then with subject specialists. The point is that (a) keywords – when mapped & appropriate (meaning matching) – should then result in a collection development / subject specialist’s image, name, title and contact information appearing along with search results because (b) we feel that it is helpful to users to see the person responsible for materials in a certain subject area.

The user may have a question, or want to know what our policies are in regards to subject areas under their domain, or be spurred to ask for a certain item, or just want to know general information. It’s a heck of a lot easier for the user if the CD librarian appears at the point of a subject/keyword search, rather than the user go hunting for them at another time.

The basis for the research specialist cards is the University of Michigan federated /Bento-style search, which uses a similar system to serve CD librarians to users during typical resource searches (more on this at the end of the blog post). For more info on how it works, issues, inherent problems, etc., please scroll down to the Q&A at the bottom of the post.

Show and Tell

As an example, let’s try to search for john keats poetry in OneSearch.  The results in the Research Help section are shown below:


In response to the query, the user gets English subject specialists in the Research Help section that appears below the first row of results.

How about results for operas by mozart?


This doesn’t work perfectly for every query, unfortunately.  For some subjects, we don’t have accurate call number information entered in yet (see more here).  Other subjects have other challenges associated with them.

You can give this new functionality a try at  Keep in mind that our “wwwdev2” site can only be accessed from computers on campus that are in the University Libraries faculty/staff IP range.

If you are interested in further information, I’ve answered what I expect will be common questions below.

Research Specialist Card Q & A

Q: Will these results display in Scout?

A: These results aren’t currently slated to display in Scout, but it’s possible to do so and it’s something we will consider for the future.

Q: How did this come about?

A: Since the initial launch of OneSearch in the fall of 2015, Web Services has been eager to add a section to OneSearch that promotes reference services.  Ideally, we didn’t want to just display static links — we wanted the reference services of individual librarians to appear based on the context that the user’s search terms provide.  We spoke to other institutions that had a Research Help section of their search results and decided it was something we could implement as well.

Q: How do you match user queries to subject specialties?

A: Our first iteration of this idea used the keywords that University of Alabama librarians supplied before the launch of the redesign last summer.  This approach was fairly limited, since a very large proportion of OneSearch user queries didn’t match any of our keywords.

We couldn’t help but notice that Michigan’s site returned relevant librarians for a wide range of queries.  When we emailed Michigan to ask them how they were accomplishing this, they informed us that they were taking the query the user put in, searching the catalog with it, and using the call numbers from the results to classify the query in their in-house taxonomy for subject specialties.   Once they had classified a query into that hierarchy, they would display the librarian associated with that specialty or specialties.

We thought: what a good idea!  So we have worked on implementing a beta version of this functionality in OneSearch that displays staff directory information when a query matches a subject specialty.  For librarians providing services that don’t easily map to Library of Congress call numbers, keywords are still available to ensure that they are returned in search results for specific searches.

Q: Where are the call numbers for each subject specialty getting pulled from?

A: This (incomplete) spreadsheet.  Call numbers have been pulled from LibGuides where available, and in instances where doing some sort of rough classification was easy based on the structure of the Library of Congress classification, I have tried to add those into the spreadsheet as well.

Q: These call numbers are wrong and/or incomplete!

A: Our hope is to get accurate call number ranges from subject specialists. Currently, the call numbers being used have been pulled together from what’s in LibGuides for each subject and what’s easy to pull out of the Library of Congress classification online. If you want to make additions or changes to the call numbers getting used for your subject specialty, take a look at this spreadsheet and please email me!

Q: Why aren’t results displaying for <insert query here>

A: There may not be any call numbers in our system associated with that subject specialty — see the question above.

We’ve also set a minimum relevance threshold for subject specialists getting displayed in search results.  If one call number out of one hundred returned from the catalog maps to a subject specialist (in an extreme example), it’s unlikely that specialist is pertinent to that query and it seemingly makes sense to exclude that subject specialist from the results.  Where exactly that threshold should be, however, is tricky, and that’s something we’re still experimenting with.

Finally, we are using AND as the default Boolean operator for catalog queries.  Using OR would increase the number of queries that return staff directory results, but decrease their likely relevance.

If you actually want to see which call numbers are getting matched to each subject, you can — but there are several steps involved.

Here’s an example URL: QUERY HERE/engine/128/resultType/relevance

Replace YOUR QUERY HERE in the above URL with a query you want to see the raw results for, then paste the URL into your browser.

The results will be hard to read, so you’ll want to make use of an online formatter.  Go to, paste your results on the left-hand side, then click Format / Beautify.  You should see formatted results on the right-hand side.



There’s still a lot of information that’s irrelevant to you here, so I recommend using Ctrl-F to search for “subject”. The most important items are the name of the subject and the relevance listed after it, which is the number of call numbers that matched call number ranges associated with that subject.



If you’re interested specifically in what those call numbers are, you can see call numbers listed in “callNumber” next to the ranges they matched.  If there are call numbers that didn’t map to any subject, they appear in the “nonMatchingCallNumbers” section (if not, the section won’t appear).  

Q: What are some limitations of this approach?

A: Our approach does not work well for queries that mostly return electronic resources — Computer Science is a good example.  This is because Voyager’s somewhat dated SearchService API can’t be configured to return call numbers if there’s nothing in the 852 location field, as is the case with our electronic resources.  If we used Z39.50 (an older search technology) instead of the API, we could get results with call numbers for these resources — but that would entail quite a bit of additional work and may not integrate well with an application that currently works with API results only.

Some subjects are largely subsets of other subjects in the LC hierarchy — for example, PN is Literature (General) and Motion pictures are PN1993-1999.  When I first tested film-related queries, English subject specialists were always returned ahead of Telecommunication and Film for film queries like “quentin tarantino” because the English call number range included all of the film results and then other literature results as well.  The simple solution is to take the motion pictures call numbers out of the literature range.   Instead of using all of PN for English, it’s now specified as PN1-1993, PN2000-6790.  In other instances where this super/subset relationship exists, similar changes may need to be made to call numbers.

More generally, some subjects are multidisciplinary and don’t neatly fit into the Library of Congress classification system.

Q: Is this the final design of how the results will display?

A: Not necessarily.  We are also looking into other options for where and how to display the Research Help results.  Once we have something to share, we’ll send those along.

We also want to make it more clear to users that OneSearch results don’t end with the Research Help box in instances where that’s what a user sees at the bottom of the browser before scrolling.

Scout update

Guest access in Scout

Some background: guest access allows our users to search Scout from off-campus without needing to log in first — instead, they are prompted to log in only after they try to access full text or protected metadata. Because of recurring issues getting to full text while utilizing guest access (previously described on the listserv), we have proxied direct links to Scout, links to Scout in OneSearch and embedded Scout search forms in LibGuides.

EBSCO is prioritizing this issue, and we were notified today that an update EBSCO has slated for release by November 23rd is expected to resolve the issue with guest access. When the update has gone through, we’ll email and blog again to make sure everyone’s aware.

One small loss of functionality from proxying access to Scout pertains to how OneSearch integrates with Scout. If users click on a “Results in Scout” link in (for example) the Academic Journals results box, they are taken to a result list that does not automatically filter to the Academic Journals source type — instead, they see all of the results for their search terms. This is because proxying links in OneSearch interferes with the cookies needed for our automatic filtering script to function properly.


Plum Analytics in Scout

At the beginning of the semester, Plum Analytics made its altmetrics data available in EBSCO Discovery Service via a small widget. For an explanation of the functionality of this widget, take a look at the Plum Analytics blog.

After consulting with the UXAG (our User eXperience Advisory Group), links to the Plum widget have been disabled on the Scout search result list. Plum Analytics information can still be accessed by clicking on a specific record — if it’s available for a given record, a link will appear.


Example of the PlumX Metrics link appearing on a detailed record in Scout.  

UXAG members agreed that including the Plum widget in the result list ran the risk of cluttering the results and wasn’t necessary if that information can still be accessed from the detailed record.

Accessibility concerns with the widget were also discussed. As it is currently configured, the Tab key cannot be used on Plum Analytics pages to navigate to usage information.

OneSearch Scout checkbox

Based on discussion in the UXAG, we have decided to include a Search Scout Only checkbox below the OneSearch search bar.  If the checkbox is checked, the user will be taken straight to the Scout results page for their query.  We will be closely tracking how this checkbox affects OneSearch use.

If you have any feedback on this checkbox, please don’t hesitate to post a comment below!



Additional Scout limiters and homepage changes

After discussion in the UXAG, Web Services would like to solicit feedback on: 1) adding limiters for print books, eBooks and streaming video to Scout and 2) a couple of changes to the default Scout homepage.  A demo profile of EDS has been set up so that you can see what these changes would look like (note: if you are off campus, you will need to use our VPN to access this profile).

New limiters


Because the books source type includes print books, eBooks, audiobooks and other publication types, it currently has to be used with other facets in Scout to narrow a search to print materials.  E-books and video appear on the list of source types, but they are often far down that list.  Adding these three limiters to Scout will allow users to more easily search the print book, eBook and streaming video records imported into Scout from our library catalog.

All three limiters use publication types for filtering instead of source types.  For that reason, source types are not checked when the limiters are used (compare the print books limiter and the books source type in the picture below).


Scout homepage changes

1) Search options will return to being hidden by default on the Scout homepage.

2) Disciplines will be available when search options are expanded, but they will be hidden by default.  Users will have the option of expanding disciplines by clicking “show topics.”


If you have any feedback on these changes, please don’t hesitate to post a comment below. These changes can be previewed on our demo profile of EDS.



Fair Use and Computer Software

Copyright law and its implications for software copying, usage, and re-purposing is a relatively recent phenomenon. Current fair-use interpretations of the application of copyright law to copyrighted and protected computer software applications are based primarily on the 9th circuit court of appeals cases Galoob toys v. Nintendo and Sega v. Accolade industries.

In the US, Computer programs are considered to be literary works (Apple v Franklin), 17 U.S.C. § 101. Copyright law protects not only the ‘literal elements’ of the computer, but extends also to the ‘non-literal’ elements such as code sequence, usage of control structures, and unique or inventive methods of applying normally utilitarian methods, objects, functions, variable or proprietary aspects of a given OS environment or computer language as an expression of the programmer’s original ideas.

Still, even given the above definition, there are considerable grounds for fair use of original software code, or copying of software programs. Currently, fair use would generally constitute that:

  • Modification of copyright software for personal use was fair as long as there was no distribution or profit involved.
  • Making copies in the course of reverse engineering is a fair use, when it is the only way to get access to the “ideas and functional elements” in the copyrighted code, and when “there is a legitimate reason for seeking such access”. This is illustrated in the 9th circuit court of appeals decision on the Galoob and Sega cases, and on the Lexmark v. Static Control Components, heard in the 6th circuit court of appeals. This very sticky widget of reverse engineering in these three cases is essentially founded on the principle that interoperability was lacking or missing, and that it was in the interests of the public to decompile copyrighted applications so that certain aspects could be accessed to allow interoperability and that a trivial (percentage of total code) was used included in the re-purposed code that extended the original programming.
  • Creating an ‘archival’ copy of a copyrighted software item is permissible, but only by following certain guidelines.

What is not permissible?

  • Generally, copying a [copyrighted] computer program other than what is mentioned above is not permissible.
  • Copying a program for educational use in a classroom is not permissible.
  • Copying, and distributing for any reason is not permissible.
  • Copying a program to use on another, unlicensed computer is not permissible.
  • Also, please note that many academic institutions err on the side of caution when it comes to copyright law and computer software, and often or usually have a variety of policies and documents governing what students, faculty and staff can and cannot do in regards to coprighted software

And of course, under the US Copyright laws, the library exception (section 108) “…allows them (libraries) to reproduce and distribute copyrighted works under certain specific conditions.” However, it should be noted that the library of Congress instituted a working group to investigate section 108, and create a report that makes recommendations that updates section 108 and the DMCA to meet the needs of the modern era. This report is forthcoming.




Proposed Scout additions

The following additions to Scout are proposed:

1. “PDF Full Text” links will display an accompanying “Send PDF to my Cloud” link that gives the Scout user an option to send that PDF to cloud storage.


Users will have the option of choosing from Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox. We are working on adding Box support.


2.   For catalog results, users will have the option of texting a call number to their phone by clicking the Text Call # link.


After clicking that link, users will be asked for their phone number and provider to facilitate the text.


3.  From the detailed record of a book result, users will have the choice to access what Google Books has available for that book.  If this book is not available for preview from Google Books, the user will be notified.



4.  In the interest of encouraging more direct Scout feedback from users, the Scout search interface will include a more prominent feedback link labelled Report Scout issue.


Users will be presented with a standard form where they can report an issue or offer their feedback.


If you have any feedback on these additions, please don’t hesitate to post a comment below.   In the absence of any concerns about these changes, they will be added to Scout at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, January 12th.

Interface changes to Scout

The following interface changes to Scout are proposed:

Note: If you are interested in previewing these changes, an EDS profile has been set up for that purpose.

  1. Discipline-limited searching will display in the search options section.  Discipline-limited searching allows users to easily narrow their search by broad subject areas. This EBSCO support article provides some additional detail on how disciplines work in EBSCO Discovery Service.     
  2. Scout will default to displaying 20 results per page. As some students do not leave the first page of results, we hope that increasing the number of results per page will expose them to a greater number of resources. Increasing the number of results per page should also make paging through results less burdensome.
  3. A few months ago, EBSCO introduced an Associated Press news “carousel” that appears when a query matches videos in the Associated Press video library.APNewsCarouselBy default, this carousel displays close to the top of the results page, and also displays regardless of the Source Type(s) the user has selected. Going forward, the AP news carousel will display at the bottom of the first page, and only for appropriate Source Type facets (i.e., All, News or Video).
  4. About a month ago, EBSCO changed Search Options to display by default with our Basic Search.  We have decided to restore the Search Options to being hidden by default.  The visibility of search options can still be toggled on and off by clicking “Search Options” beneath the search bar.   Update: Based on feedback we’ve received, this change has been removed from what will be added to Scout on the 28th.  Thank you to those who took the time to provide their feedback!  ScoutSearchOptions

If you have any feedback on the above interface changes, please don’t hesitate to post a comment below. In the absence of any concerns about these changes, they will be added to the live version of Scout the afternoon of Wednesday, October 28th. Feedback on any other changes is also appreciated.